Place where you pay money to have someone else cook your food and clean up after you. There's probably some mathematical relation between the price of the food and the quality of the food, but at some point that maxes out and you're paying for atmosphere and the number of people in the kitchen who actually have to touch your food. And the attitude of the maitre d' doesn't come cheap, either.

Walk in.
Sit down.
Look at a menu.
Pick something you would like.
Get a returned smile.
Someone puts food on your table.
You say "thank you" with a smile.
You eat the food.
You burp.
You signal for the check.
You pay the full amount of the check with about 15% more for the tip.
You stand up.
You leave.


I exist. I know that much. In the terminal I am counting out change, I am counting on my fingers in the Fibonacci sequence, I am running out of fingers and hands. Yet again I find myself without a seat in the plane out of here. I am running out of change, I cannot call, I cannot even make a single call to say, sorry, but I can't make it. The terminal is empty, and I can see the plane of tomorrow descending upon the cool, dark ground of being. Today's plane is gone. I am running toward the disembarking passengers in my dream but they do not see the cluemaker counting on my fingers and the numbers failing to arrive. It has been weeks since I have heard a sound; for months I have seen nothing. Sometimes I sleep. On waking, I detest my decision, which I play over and over in what is left of my mind. I want to make a painting of a world without entropy. I want to, I must, and I will read this painting aloud alone before everything is completely cold.

-- mps (more poems)

The use of the word restaurant to describe an eating house came about in 1765 because a Parisian soup vendor by the name of Boulanger wanted to sell sheep’s feet in white sauce.

In his day, one usually went to an inn or to a “traiteur” for cooked food. The traiteur monopolized the sale of meats and would not sell a portion, insisting that the customer buy an entire piece – i.e. a whole joint, which made it both inconvenient and expensive. And often they did not provide seating to allow customers to dine on the premises.

Soups, however, were not under the jurisdiction of the traiteurs or the inns. Boulanger began to call his soups restaurants , a play on the French word, restaurer, meaning to restore, owing to the fact that highly flavored soups were commonly used for medicinal purposes. He hung a sign written in Latin outside his shop that said:

Venite ad me; vos qui stomacho laboratis et ego restaurabo vos


Boulanger sells magical restoratives

He was probably quite sincere about his soups being magical restoratives. In those days it was a very scary thing to get sick because doctors had so few options. Medical procedures consisted of such things as purging and applying suction cups or leeches for bloodletting and the like, and most people couldn’t afford such ministrations, so they held nutritious foods in high regard.

Monsieur Boulanger had too sharp a business sense to be limited to selling soups, so he blurred the line between traiteur and soup vendor by selling sheep’s feet in white sauce. I know, it sounds terrible, and probably was, but it turned out to be a good strategy.

The traiteurs sued him, claiming that sheep’s feet in white sauce was a ragout and ragout was strictly the territory of the traiteur. In the end, the French Parliament decreed that sheeps’ feet in white sauce was not a ragout. To be precise, a ragout is made from uniformly cut chunks of meat, fowl or fish, cooked without coloring, and served with or without vegetables. Sheep’s feet are not uniformly cut and ragout is not served with a white sauce. No case.

The lawsuit generated a great deal of free advertising for Boulanger’s restoratives and business boomed. Even Louis XV ordered it prepared at Versailles (he was a gourmand and didn’t like it at all).

During the 1780s, other entrepreneurs copied Boulanger and eateries sprang up all over Paris. So the word “restaurant” came to refer to the establishment selling the soup, rather than the soups it served. It wasn’t until 1827 that the English began to use it and by that time, Parisian restaurants were serving a wide range of foods.

Adapted from: Larousse Gastronomique, and “Cupboard Love: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities”.

Every French story about food or women has more than one version (cf. the invention of the brassiere). Why, some of my stories are suspect...

What really put restaurants over the top was a health-food fad of the Napoleonic era: bouillon. Seems as if one fashionable diet was based on drinking the liquid beef (or other meat) was cooked in. Since beef is boiled in water with lots of vegetables, the prevailing wisdom was that the water somehow took in all the nutrients of what it cooked, therefore drinking the soup was more nutritious than actually eating the meat....the perfect food. (No one thought of fiber back then...) Anyhow, the scheme was that you had to drink this liquid (for maximum results) every two hours. Since meals tended to be six hours apart, this meant that one had to take a cup of bouillon with you while gadding about town, or have someone cook it for you at an inn or traiteur. Well, traiteurs didn't have tables to eat things from (being something like a convenience store or Korean grocer) and inns had tables, but tended to have only set menus (kind of like staying at someone's house). So, where do you eat? At a restaurant!

Anyhow, restaurants had their ups and downs for more than a century before becoming an urban fixture. Napoleonic wannabees adored them, and you could see all kinds of men, women, and other creatures sitting at tiny tables sipping broth, eating ice cream, and such exotic drinks as soda water while gazing into each other's eyes. During the Bourbon Restoration, this became a somewhat declasse activity: only smart young men and prostitutes would dare to eat anywhere other than each others' homes. As the century went on, however, prostitution became a bit more, shall we say upscale, and the places became gradually more elaborate to set off the dazzling ladies of the evening who frequented them -- as well as the dishes and service, which necessitated a corresponding elaboration in kitchen organization. French cooking (especially with entrees) became modular: intead of cooking something in spices or in a distinct manner, meats were cooked without seasonings and sauced and garnished to make various varieties.

By the turn of the century, respectable women were seen more and more at such establishments, especially during the day, and by the First World War, the process was complete.

Res"tau*rant [F., fr. restaurer. See Restore.]

An eating house.


© Webster 1913.

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